FocusChina to require more butane as downstream units proliferate

28 May 2013 04:27  [Source: ICIS news]

By Vivian Lv

butane gas tankSINGAPORE (ICIS)--China’s overall butane consumption is expected to surge, given a projected 4.56m-tonne requirement of numerous deep-processing units that will come on stream this year and throughout next year, industry sources said on Tuesday.

Butane refers collectively to the two C4H10 isomers: n-butane and isobutene used in producing maleic anhydride (MA) and propylene oxide, respectively.

Some 26 butane deep-processing units are due to start up in China in 2013-2014 as the country continues to expand its domestic petrochemical production on the road towards self-sufficiency, according to data gathered by C1 Energy, an ICIS service in China. (Please see table)

Three of the total are designed to produce MA from n-butane, eight will be able to yield isobutene from isobutane dehydrogenation, two are designed to produce propylene oxide (PO) from isobutene, and the remaining 13 units will be alkylation units designed to be fed with isobutane and butylenes.

Before this year, 16 butane deep-processing units were brought on line, according to ICIS C1 data.

The combined butane requirement of all existing and planned deep processing units by end-2014 is projected at 5.46m-tonnes, with bulk of the demand or 89% will be for isobutene and 590,000 tonnes for n-butane.

China may have to import some portion of its butane requirement as domestic supply available for commercial sales is small, they said, adding that locally produced butane falls short in terms of quality needed to produce some derivative petrochemicals.

Availability of butane with a high purity of above 95% in the domestic market is scarce in China. Highly purified butane is needed for MA production.

The country’s butane output last year stood at 220,000 tonnes, but this could gradually grow over time in view of the anticipated spike in domestic consumption for petrochemical production.

Most of China’s butane stays in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and is not extracted and sold separately.

In 2012, butane contained in LPG stood at 8.57m tonnes – more than enough to cover the country’s requirement when the planned deep-processing units start operations.

But refineries, particularly the smaller ones, may not be too keen to make the investment for fractionation units to separate butane from LPG, constraining China’s ability to grow its domestic pool of the feedstock.

State-owned firms Sinopec and PetroChina, which can afford the investment, on the other hand, are mandated by the government to prioritise LPG supply to households. 

Butane deep-processing units in China                      

start-ups due in 2013-2014                             Unit capacity/butane demand in ‘000 tonnes/year

Units

Number

of plants

Capacity

Butane Demand

N-butane Demand

Iso-butane Demand

Maleic Anhydride

3

300

350

350

0

Iso-butane Dehydrogenation

8

1,340

1,340

0

1,340

Propylene Oxide

2

480

1,400

0

1,400

Alkylation

13

2,940

1,470

0

1,470

Total

26

5,060

4,560

350

4,210

Existing units before 2013

Units

Number

of plants

Capacity

Butane Demand

N-butane Demand

Iso-butane Demand

Maleic Anhydride

7

210

240

240

0

Iso-butane Dehydrogenation

1

100

100

0

100

Alkylation

8

1,170

590

0

590

Total

16

1,480

930

240

690

All

42

6,540

5,490

590

4,900

Source: ICIS C1 Energy

 

($1 = CNY6.12)

Read John Richardson and Malini Hariharan’s blog – Asian Chemical Connections


By: Vivian Lv
+65 6780 4327



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